National table tennis player Miguel Wong’s hopes of getting to the Junior Pan American Games slated for Cali, Colombia in November later this year was given a much needed boost after he received backing from Guyana Beverages Inc. (GBI) through their ‘Altitude’ Sports Drink brand.
The company who has been a long time supporter of table tennis in Guyana and sports in general expressed their delight in giving Wong their support through the form of financial backing.
Marketing Manager of the company, Raymond Govinda said, “We are happy to support Miguel and his journey to Cali, GBI has always been a proud supporter of sports in Guyana dating back to when the company first came to Guyana, and we will continue to show our support.”
He noted, “Miguel is an excellent young athlete and we always want to see our athletes, especially the younger ones perform well and we have full confidence that he will make us and Guyana proud.”
Wong who has plans of travelling to the US or Germany in a few weeks time for a High Performance camp in preparation for the Junior Pan Am Games not only secured GBI’s financial support but also a deal with the ‘Altitude’ brand which will see him being refreshed and rehydrated throughout his training.
At the handing over on Monday at Wong’s home club, the Titans Table Tennis Club, Wong expressed gratitude for the support.
Wong will depart Guyana for the High Performance camp before heading to Cali where the Games are scheduled to begin from November 25 – December 4.
The Junior Pan American Games will be the first of its kind and is a multi-sports event for athletes aged 17 to 22 in the Americas, organized by Panam Sports.
Recently returned from Germany, National table tennis player Miguel Wong in collaboration with his parent club, the Titans Table Tennis Club and Head Coach Dwain Dick, will be conducting a ‘Performance’ camp from Friday.
Dubbed the ‘Titans Performance Table Tennis Camp”, it will run up to Sunday (November 22) at the club’s current home, the Guyana Red Cross Headquarters at Barrack Street, Kingston.
Wong, who spent a year in Germany honing his skills at the country’s top Table Tennis Centres, told The 592 Dugout; “The goal is to introduce various strategies and help further develop the players’ technical side of their game. It Will also be helpful for the players to be prepared for the Guyana Table Tennis Association’s (GTTA) tournament scheduled for next weekend”.
“I intend to introduce the knowledge I have learnt while away in Germany as well as to help them with their physical fitness.”
Meanwhile Dick who is the Head Coach of Titans, said he will be assisting Wong to share his knowledge. However due to Covid-19, the club will only see eight persons participating. Among those athletes are the likes of Kyle Chung and Krystian Sahadeo.
According to the duo, the Performance camp will include; a one day tournament, physical fitness sessions, mental recovery sessions and game play.
The Performance camp is open to all players (beginners, intermediate, advanced) and costs $10,000 per player.
According to Wong, once Covid-19 has eased and it is safe again, he will be looking to hold more camps.
In the world of sports, confidence is key along with dedication, discipline and a drive to succeed; all attributes that 15-year-old National Junior Table Tennis player Thuraia Thomas possesses and has been putting to good use thus far in her career.
The self-styled “World Boss” as she is known by her colleagues at the Titans Table Tennis Club, sat down with The 592 Dugout and spoke of her journey into the world of Table Tennis.
“I started playing as an extracurricular activity in school (Marian Academy) when I was in Grade 3 back in 2013. At the time my older brother also used to play and I have this thing where I always say ‘anything he can do I can do better’, after a few years of playing in school, (National) Coach Linden Johnson invited me to the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall to train. From thereon I started getting better but my true potential wasn’t realized until I transferred to Titans Table Tennis Club. It was when I started going on winning streaks then I realized that table tennis might actually be my calling and therefore I stuck with it”.
The outspoken teenager who is currently Guyana’s National Girls U-15 Champion took the time to acknowledge her support system that plays a key role in her development.
“My biggest supporters have always been my family, especially my father. He has supported me from the beginning; he’s there at every tournament and training session. Another person I’d like to acknowledge who has also had a hand in my development as a player is Coach Dwain Dick”.
Asked about what fuels her drive to push on, Thuraia revealed; “Self-motivation is a key factor and I am able to say that whenever I’m on the table I keep pushing myself because I know I have goals. My faith in God is also something that I rely on and he definitely helps me alot.”
Keeping an eye on the future, the youngster who is about to enter fifth form at the Marian Academy has her eyes set on a few goals both academic and in table tennis.
“My main goal is to finish my education and be successful in whatever I do. However, in terms of tennis I would like to be awarded a NCTTA (National Collegiate Table Tennis Association) scholarship to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in either Microbiology or Biochemistry while of course continuing to play table tennis”.
“After university life I plan on competing in various international tournaments and to play my part in putting Guyana on the map” she maintained.
The road to her academic goals are well under way and “World Boss” touched on that journey; “The road to achieving my academic goals seem smooth but where table tennis is concerned, it is on pause due to the covid pandemic, but I still am keeping fit and I also try to educate myself even further on the sport by watching videos and reading”.
Thuraia who has been winning tournaments consistently since 2014, has a full trophy cabinet from local and national competitions but what she cherishes the most is her place on the Junior National team.
“I would say my biggest accomplishment to date is being able to represent my country at the regional level and the fact that I have been able to make a name for myself at those tournaments”.
At this tender age, Thuraia has bigger aspirations for herself on the table and bluntly stated her ambition; “My heart is set on winning the U-18 Junior Caribbean title and I am bent on becoming the national women’s champion as well”.
Quizzed about who she thinks is her biggest rival, she name-dropped current Women’s champion and world-ranked player Natalie ‘Speedy’ Cummings.
Stepping away from the table, Thuraia’s interest is that of a normal teen; “When I’m not playing tennis, I am either reading, learning new songs on the piano, playing basketball and I love karaoke”.
In closing, Thomas had a message; “For the little girls who are now entering the world of sports, my advice is that you just have fun and do everything to the best of your ability. If you think that sports is your new found love, then stick with it and always put your best foot forward and keep pushing yourselves to greater things, it will serve you well”.
Dick urges National Federations to unite & improve policies
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the world throughout without discretion and has brought sports to a standstill. While in certain parts of the world professional football and motorsports have resumed behind closed doors and under specific conditions, it is unclear when it would be safe for sports in Guyana to make a return.
However, despite this uncertainty, Guyana’s leading table tennis institution, the Titans Table Tennis Club is remaining proactive in its plans for the future. Known for their almost factory-like production of top junior athletes, The Titans family has been putting their time during lockdown to good use.
In an exclusive interview, Titans’ President and Head Coach Dwain Dick, told The 592 Dugout that the younger athletes have been given a much needed break.
Dick opined; “I think the uncertainty of our return to normalcy is the biggest concern. Sports have been a big part of our lives as coaches, players, and even parents, thus, the pandemic has forced us to alter our schedules and our lives to some extent. It’s challenging, but we are all trying to cope, by focusing and prioritizing our areas that were somewhat a bit neglected because of table tennis. The younger athletes now have more time to rest and place emphasis on academics”.
Despite there not being any guidance from the relevant sports authorities, the Titans administration has been busy looking ahead to when it is finally safe to resume operations.
To this end, Dick revealed; “We are presently drafting a set of safety protocols for the return of our senior (adult) and elite junior players as a trial. This would include temperature tests, wearing of masks, playing areas limited to only coaches and specific number of players, handling of equipment and a few other things that would have to be adhered to”.
Looking at the impact of the lockdown and it’s ripple effects, both negative and positive, the outspoken Titans President explained; “Our full time coaches were forced more or less to take up part time employment outside of sports so we are all trying to adjust. It is taking a financial toll on us as we still would have had some overheads but we are trying to cushion those expenses through our academic arm, the TTTC Virtual Learning Academy”.
He further revealed; “It’s an online platform where we offer students, student/athletes, and adults tutoring in subjects that propel them towards careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)”.
He continued; “Since the inception of Titans I was offering CSEC Mathematics to club members with phenomenal success. It is just that this period has given us the opportunity to think and plan ahead a bit more seriously or in other terms, has forced us to consider opportunities in the present”.
Quizzed about plans for when the club can finally resume their operations, Dick revealed; “There are no immediate plans for tournaments but we are in the process of drafting our elite junior program, which hopefully we will be able to implement. It’s a junior program that will see us moving away from the recreational aspect into the professional (elite) realm”.
Dick who was a former national player appealed to everyone to be; “more responsible and cautious. As we put ourselves at risk, we also put others at risk too”.
In closing he encouraged the various national federations to; “Collaborate whether it’s virtually and use this period to strengthen and improve their policies etc, so that when sports resumes we can see them operating at the highest standards. They can use this time to communicate their vision and become more efficient and effective, as well as see ways how to improve athletes performances and how best to support athletes”.
“To the parents, emotional support provides the biggest benefits to young athletes, so continue to be that support. To my fellow coaches, adapt, and find ways to stay relevant. This time will pass”.
Dick further urged; “To the players, stay positive, there will be more chances and opportunities in the future. To become a great athlete it requires tremendous amounts of dedication, discipline, desire and effort. Stand up and face the present challenges. Stay positive, remember it’s not about a one time trip, it’s about self development, being the best that you can be”.
“Winners never quit and quitters never win” is a quote that resounds strongly through Miguel Wong’s mind whenever he is faced with hardships and it has gotten him through tough situations in life and in his first love, table tennis.
Nineteen-year-old Wong, who has been playing table tennis for exactly half of his life is currently in Germany where he is following his dream and paving the way for other Guyanese players who may have similar aspirations.
A pioneer of sorts, Wong has been in Germany since September of 2019 where the first step of his European journey began at the Sachsicher Table Tennis Club in the city of Eilenburg at a high performance training camp.
His first challenge was getting there from Guyana, one which the conservative youngster overcame with the help of his steadfast sponsors Kings Jewelry World, Beacon Cafe and the Titans Table Tennis Club who made his trip possible.
Despite a late start, once Wong got to Germany he made the most of his opportunity where he had the chance to train with world-class players from Egypt, Russia, Columbia, Mexico, Romania, Morocco, India, and Poland at the Sachsicher Club.
Advised by his then coach, Andras Turoczy (Romania), Wong then set out to further improve his skill set by continuing his journey in Germany, this time at the TopSpin Tishtennis Center in the city of Bad Aibling earlier this year.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic struck and Germany was hit hard with over 190,000 confirmed cases and 8000+ deaths to date; but like every other time, Wong has persevered and recounted his experience thus far.
“I live in the training centre with eight other players but we were fortunate enough to be in this position where we could have continued training in quarantine amongst ourselves. Topspin Tishtennis Center has everything a table tennis player needs to improve their game such as gym equipment, physiotherapists, many coaches, international players and locals alike.”
He also noted, “Now that the lockdown has eased we recently concluded an open training camp with German league and junior national players”.
Quizzed about improvements to his game, Wong revealed; “Since my arrival in Germany my physical and mental condition along with my constant game play has improved rapidly according to my Coach, Thomas Wetzel. He is a former German national player,coach and the owner and head coach of TopSpin Centre”. At this point of his European stay, Wong has been met by another hurdle, he needs additional funding to continue his dream of reaching the professional level.
“I’ve been getting alot of support from Kings Jewelry World, Beacon Cafe and Titans Table Tennis Club in securing funds but for me to continue my stay in Germany I would need an additional US $5000 for training and equipment.”
On his return from Europe, Wong intends to give back and share his wealth of newly acquired knowledge and skills; “I plan on continuing to coach and spar with younger players to help improve our (Guyana’s) junior level”.
With his journey, Wong has already fostered friendships and expanded his professional network, something he is doing for others wanting to follow in his footsteps; I’m already well established in a position to have junior players attend camps in Europe and play in leagues. To create a path for others to follow was always my main aim”.
“My advice to anyone wanting to emulate my steps is to have realistic goals and work towards them step by step no matter how long it takes. and also to network and build friendships as much as possible with everyone.”
Anyone interested in helping the youngster continue his aspirations can help by depositing any amount in his bank account (Republic Bank: 962352678621) or can contact him on WhatsApp (+592-646-0825) and or by calling +1-592-679-7412.